What is the meaning of Luke 11:52 “Woe unto you lawyers”?


What is the meaning of Luke 11:52, ‘Woe unto you lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered“?


The lawyers of whom Jesus spoke were the Pharisees, professors of the law, the religious leaders of the time. To sustain their profession they often made a great mystery of the meaning of the law. Though it might have been simple and plain, their profits and privileges depended upon giving the impression that it was difficult. Hence they took the law into their own special keeping and interpreted it for the people as they pleased. Not only this, but they also manufactured reputations out of the shortcomings of their fathers. Their fathers had murdered the prophets. Now they (the sons) were busy building their sepulchers, and so pretending to dissent from their fathers’ spirit. But Jesus showed their pretense for what it was: worthless hypocrisy. The evil feeling was still in them. By rejecting Jesus and His teaching, they were not only cutting themselves off from God but were at the same time hindering others.

It seems that Jesus was teaching a two-fold lesson in this text: that we are responsible for our actions, and also that we are responsible for the actions of others as they follow our wrong example. The Pharisees, while pretending to be experts in the law, were not only failing to practice it themselves but were actually committing a second sin by keeping others from it.